Rare Volume Sheds Light on Colonial Mexican History

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/06/09

At a 2008 antiquarian book fair, USC’s Boeckmann Center for Iberian and Latin American Studies acquired a rare 1770 edition of the Historia de Nueva España, edited by the archbishop of Mexico, Francisco Antonio Lorenzana. The volume includes three of the letters that explorer Hernán Cortés wrote to Charles V, maps tracing his journey to Baja California after landing in the Yucatan in 1519, and a reproduction of an Aztec Codex.

Librarian Barbara Robinson selected the volume to support the research and teaching of colonial-era Mexican history at USC. The Historia de Nueva España also documents the pre-Columbian history and culture of Mexico with reproductions of hieroglyphic records of the tributes paid to the Aztec emperor Moctezuma by settlements under his rule.
Maria-Elena Martinez, associate professor of Latin American history at USC College and recent co-director of the Latin American Studies Initiative, said the rare volume will prove to be a significant resource for her classroom teaching and research into the colonial history of Mexico and other territories of New Spain, including California.

She said, “This is an important acquisition for USC…. Archbishop Lorenzana’s edition of Cortés’s letters is of special interest to me because of his comments on them. The book provides a window into the construction of historical narratives about the ‘Kingdom of New Spain’ as Spanish colonialism was coming to an end.”

In addition, she said, “the Matrícula de Tributos, or Aztec Codex, gives a sense of the importance of tribute and trade under the Aztec Empire. I hope to use this…in my undergraduate courses to convey the variety and amount of merchandise and raw materials that the Aztecs obliged conquered territories to pay them.”


Title page from the 1770 edition of Lorenzana's Historia de Nueva España



Engraving by José Mariano Navarro depicting an Aztec temple prior to Cortés' arrival in the New World.



Reproduction of the Aztec records detailing the tribute paid to the emperor Moctezuma

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